This post is part of a series in partnership with MakerCon, which takes place September 24th in New York. MakerCon connects the individuals at the forefront of the maker movement and taps into the best thinking on how to make things and get them to market, from new technologies to manufacturing models to funding methods.
When you meet Dale Dougherty, the founder of MAKE Magazine and Creator of Maker Faire, you can’t help but notice one thing – the undeniable and ever-present sparkle in his eyes. Dale brings a level of enthusiasm and genuine glee to any conversation, whether it is with 3 people or 300. There is no mistaking – Dale loves what he does and who can blame him? Having launched MAKE Magazine in 2005 Dale has been at the forefront of the maker movement for over a decade. He has not only seen but also participated in its evolution around the world. We were lucky enough to catch up with him and find out a bit more about what makes him tick.
As the Founder and Executive Chairman of Maker Media you are constantly showcasing and forecasting trends in maker culture – how do you do it, what does your day-to-day look like?
I travel quite a bit, which I like. I enjoy meeting makers and seeing our Maker Faires in different parts of the United States but also in other countries. I get to personally view the development of makers and the maker movement from many different perspectives. I see how it all connects together — makers have much in common — but I also see how makers are distinctive in so many ways. Making is an expression of a person’s knowledge, ability and interests.
What do you think the most important effect of the maker movement has been so far?
I think the fact that it has become popular is amazing. More people know about it than I could have ever imagined and more importantly, so many people are participating as makers. Somehow, the idea that we are makers seems to wake people up to a world of possibilities.
Was there/what was the watershed moment in the movement, in your opinion?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure there was a particular tipping point, and I don’t recall when the term movement began to be applied. I guess I think of it as gathering momentum, and more people hearing about it — and somehow they began declaring themselves as makers, and talking about it to friends and family. As a movement, it occurred because lots of individuals and small groups acted independently to do things that mattered to them.
Maker media recently launched makerspace.com and it’s already making ripples. What is your vision for that site and what are you hoping it will offer its users?
My vision is that we create a home for the best projects to live — projects that have been to Maker Faire, projects that have been in the magazine, projects that people want to share with others and have others contribute. It’s more than having how-to instructions. It’s about makers telling the story about a project in their own words, and connecting to others with the same interest and passion.
Your recent focus on projects around Maker Cities suggests there are interesting things happening at the city level, what are you seeing and how will Maker Media be playing a role?
I do think cities are beginning to look for opportunities to embrace making for a number of reasons. One is cultural. Events like Maker Faire encourage lots of people to participate and share what they create. Another is the development of small business, as makers turn a passion project into a business. Lastly, and maybe most important, our future depends on our ability at an individual and civic level to adapt to change, if not take the lead as change makers.
That requires us to be continuous learners and makers. There is a mindset that makers share that is grounded in the belief that problems can be solved and everything can be improved. It’s very positive.
What is the most remarkable thing you’ve observed in the maker movement?
What really stands out for me — and I see this so clearly at Maker Faire — is the deep interest that children have in making. It’s quite natural for them to want to create and build and shape the world around them. However, many don’t get that opportunity in school or in their community. So we have to create makerspaces for kids, places that have tools, materials and mentors, so that making is accessible to every child. I believe it is not only good for them as children but it helps them lead productive lives — and it develops their own sense of agency for them to do what they want to do. A second thing I’ll note is that making is wonderfully intergenerational. Grandparents, parents, kids — all of them can come together for making.
You coined the term Web 2.0 and have since made Maker more mainstream – are you already seeing the next trend on the horizon? If so, what do you think it will be?
I’m kind of anti-trend right now. I’m not searching for new trends and most stories I read about such trends seem superficial. In contrast, I think the maker movement is deep and wide, and we are just getting started. There’s so much ahead. My hope is that making is something that will pass from one generation to the next.
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